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Falls, Construction Still Top Workplace Dangers

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

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The good news: Slightly fewer Americans are being injured on the job.

The bad news: Millions are still endangered daily in the same old ways, with the construction industry still claiming the most lives, new federal labor reports show.

Top 10 OSHA Violations

Scaffolding and fall-protection safety violations again led the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Top 10 Violations in 2011, the agency announced this week.

 scaffolding violations

Scaffolding violations have always been among the most frequently cited by OSHA. This collapse killed a construction worker in New York in 2009.

Although the categories switched the top two positions this year, their overall toll has changed little, with falls still the leading cause of death in the workplace. OSHA said 260 workers died in 2010 from falls.

Ladder violations, which ranked fifth last year, dropped to No. 8 in 2011, but this may be related to major declines in construction employment, especially in the residential and commercial sectors, which have impacted other workplace safety statistics. Still, ladder hazards were involved in about one in four falls.

Ladder hazards include improper use of siderails, unintended use of ladders, and defective ladders.

Otherwise, except for some minor shuffling, the Top 10 causes of OSHA violations remain unchanged from last year, according to the list released this week at the National Safety Council’s Congress and Expo.

Injuries Show Little Change

Meanwhile, about 2.9 million nonfatal workplace injuries and 200,000 illnesses were reported among private industry employers in 2010, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports in its new Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses.

The survey, which draws on OSHA requirements for recording occupational injuries and illnesses, began in 2002.

In 2010, the survey recorded an incidence rate of 3.5 cases per 100 equivalent full-time workers, a slight dip from 2009’s rate of 3.6.

However, the rate of serious injury and illness (so-called DART cases) remained at 1.8 in 100, the same rate as in 2009.

Most Cited OSHA Violations

 2011  2010
 1.  Fall Protection  (7,139)  Scaffolding
 2.  Scaffolding  (7,069)  Fall Protection
 3.  Hazard Communication  (6,538)  Hazard Communication
 4.  Respiratory Protection  (3,944)  Respiratory Protection
 5.  Hazardous Energy – L/T  (3,639)  Ladders
 6.  Electrical – Wiring Methods (3,584)  Hazardous Energy – L/T
 7.  Powered Industrial Trucks  (3,432)  Electrical Wiring Methods
 8.  Ladders (3,244)  Powered Industrial Trucks
 9.  Electrical – General (2,863)  Electrical - General
 10. Machine Guarding (2,556)  Machine Guarding

Moreover, injuries and illness in the manufacturing sector increased—the only industry to do so. That incidence rate rose to 4.4 cases per 100 full-time workers from 4.3 in 2009. Manufacturing alone accounted for more than 30 percent of all illness cases in the private sector.

Key Findings

Among BLS’s findings:

Private sector injury and illness cases have declined significantly each year since 2002.

The incidence rate in the private construction industry decreased by 0.3 cases (7 percent) to 4.0 cases per 100 full-time workers in 2010. Most of the decline came from specialty trade contractors.

The highest incidence rate in 2010 occurred in mid-size (50 to 249 workers) private industry establishments.

Goods-producing industries accounted for 36.3 percent of all occupational illness cases in 2010—an incidence rate of 31.8 per 10,000 full-time workers.

The public sector recorded an overall incidence rate of 5.7 cases per 100 full-time workers—about the same as in 2009.

However, nearly four in five of those cases occurred among local government workers in 2010, reflecting a significant shift from the previous year. The 2010 rate among local workers was 6.1 cases per 100; in 2009, it was 4.6 cases for state employees.

Workplace Fatalities

The BLS injury survey follows the August report on fatal work-related injuries from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries.

The fatality census reported a preliminary total of 4,547 fatal work injuries in 2010, about the same as the final count of 4,551 fatal work injuries in 2009.

Construction accounted for more fatal work injuries than any other industry in 2010.

Final 2010 CFOI data will be released in spring 2012.


Tagged categories: Accidents; Fall protection; Health and safety; Ladders; OSHA; Respiratory Protection Standard; Scaffolding

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